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Wrangler Team Roping Championships
Written by: Ruth Nicolaus< Back to Articles
For a team roper, nothing quickens the blood like a horse and some steers to turn.
And the Wrangler Team Roping Championships have given the team roping world a place to rope, to be horseback, to enjoy friends, and to win money for the past eighteen years.
Founded by Dennis Tryan, the Wrangler Team Roping Championships are headquartered in Huntley, Montana.
They consist of between 45-55 team ropings a year, scattered throughout Montana, North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Washington, and Canada.
They average about 4,000 members annually, and at their 2022 finals, held in Billings, about 6,000 teams came to rope.
It started in the fall of 2005 when the UPS truck drove up one day, as Dennis sat in the shade by the bunkhouse. He watched as the driver dropped off a box of goodies for his boys, professional team ropers.
“What I noticed,” he said, “was that the better they got at team roping in the professional ranks, the more free stuff all these companies gave them. Every single day, it seemed like, the UPS truck would stop by, drop off free ropes, leg gear, free clothes, this and that, and it was for my kids.”
He realized that for the ropers who weren’t on the national scene, there were no freebies.
“My brain said, ‘Oh, wow, what if I did that for the amateur team roper, the hobby team roper, that will never get a shot at anything free from these companies?’”
He had already been producing team ropings around the state, and knew there was a need for a new level of competition.
So he called his old friend Allen Bach, co-owner of Cactus Ropes, and pitched the idea to him.
Cactus Ropes agreed, as did several other companies. Wrangler came aboard as title sponsor, and the Wrangler Team Ropings were born.
Dennis designed some of his divisional ropings to be designated for individual companies. For example, the No. 9 roping might be the Cactus roping, and winners from that roping who are using Cactus ropes are rewarded with a check and a multi-month rope contract with Cactus.
“You’re a hobby roper, you won a Wrangler roping, and a national company just took interest in you, calls you and askes you what ropes you want,” he said.
“Here’s what’s unique about what we do: we go to sponsors, and instead of the sponsor writing a check to us, they come with product. Instead of it going into our pockets, the ropers end up with it.
“That’s what makes us different.”
Another thing unique to the Wrangler Team Roping Championships is the Challenge Race. At every roping, ropers accumulate points. At the end of the year, the top point-holders win product: Fast Back Ropes, Cactus Ropes, Boulet Boots, Wrangler clothing, Preifert chutes, Smarty, PRO Orthopedic, and more.
“It’s something else to win at the end of the year,” he said, “and it didn’t cost you a penny to win it.”
Dennis, a team roper himself, began roping in his teens, and in 1984, made the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. But the rodeo life wasn’t what he wanted. He remembers driving to Clovis, N.M., for a rodeo in 1985, going 110 miles per hour to get there on time. “My kids were going to start Little League baseball, and I was 1,500 miles away from them. I thought, ‘is this really what I want to do?’”
So he quit full time competition.
Team roping is so popular, he believes, because it’s a sport that can be done as an adult. After high school and college, there aren’t many sports to compete in, other than golf.
Being around horses is also a draw. “A lot of old ranchers have been around horses their entire life, and anything to do with a horse, they want to do it.”
It’s addictive and a challenge. He remembers watching his younger brother rope in high school, before Dennis started, and thinking, ‘what’s so fun about this?’ Then he tried it. “I got on and tried it and instantly I loved it, and I think a lot of people are like that.”
There’s also a strong sense of camaraderie among the competitors, which Dennis is evident of. “I have friends all over the place. I don’t know a town I couldn’t get broke down in that I couldn’t call somebody.”
His family helps with the business. Wife Pat works in the office; son Travis and his wife Hillary manage the office, and son Brady and his wife Callahan manage the records. His sons Clay and Matt and daughter Taylor are also ropers.
His sons Clay, Travis and Brady are all pro ropers and are the only three-some of brothers who qualified for the Wrangler National Finals the same year, 2010. “That was a cool moment for me,” he said.
He and Travis produce some of the Wrangler ropings, but other people produce as well.
The finals are huge, “an undertaking like you wouldn’t believe,” he said. “That many teams, stalls, and the other details.” Pre-entries are not required for the Wrangler championships, so there’s no way of knowing the exact number of teams that will be in town. The finals used to average between 4,800-5,200 teams, but in 2020, because of the pandemic, the number jumped to 7,000 teams. That year, they roped around the clock. In 2021 and 2022, the number has leveled off to 6,000 teams and Dennis has added a third arena, so the ropings are done by evening time.
The finals are held in two locations in Billings: the MetraPark Coliseum and the Expo Center. They both provide “the atmosphere that’s needed for big events like that,” he said.
Among team roping associations, the Wrangler Championships are in the top five, he estimates. But if the finals are the measuring stick, “we have one of the biggest finals in the U.S.”
He’s pleased with what he’s produced.
“I had a dream, and it came to life, to fruition. I made it work. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s very satisfying.”
More information can be found at WranglerTeamRoping.com